I was and am a big fan of the Planet Earth series. And have become a big fan of all things Discovery ( http://tinyurl.com/qj9xhg ) This morning I learned about a new TV series that frankly I wish I had thought of, and would love to be a part of. Who hasn’t asked life’s greatest questions… and THAT appears to be precisely what this series tends to set out to showcase.
Although it is more than a year away, I believe this could be a huge entertainment brand in the making that will have multi-platform opportunities. From the obvious TV series itself (set for Sundays at 8PM) to the on-line community already mentioned, the interactive world, social media, blogs, mobile potential and more. With such universal themes, this could be huge.
TV Series to Explore Life’s Big Questions
The Discovery Channel believes it has found its next television spectacle: trying to answer the vital questions of human existence.
On Thursday Discovery plans to announce that its founder, John Hendricks, is returning to the channel to oversee a 60-episode, five-year series titled “Curiosity: The Questions of Our Life.”
The channel calls “Curiosity” a landmark series, drawing comparisons to “Planet Earth,” the 11-part environmental overview that received wide acclaim when it was shown in the United States in 2007.
“Every now and then these milestone attempts are made on TV, and this is going to be another one,” Mr. Hendricks said in a telephone interview.
Beginning in January 2011, a new one-hour episode of “Curiosity” will be shown each month, Discovery said. While the premiere is more than a year away, the channel’s programmers have already chosen a time slot: Sundays at 8 p.m.
Discovery wants to sign high-profile producers for “Curiosity.” David Zaslav, the chief executive of the channel’s parent company, Discovery Communications, has held talks with the director Steven Spielberg about a production partnership for the project, among other subjects, according to two people familiar with the talks who requested anonymity because they said a deal had not been reached.
The topics will befit the series’s length. Each episode will examine an issue like “What is consciousness?” or “Are we alone in the universe?” Other possible questions include “How does civilization affect the planet?” and “What is a virus, and how can it become a pandemic?”
The questions — about science, technology, medicine and other subjects — are to be selected in collaboration with universities, including Princeton and Syracuse. In a statement the chancellor of Syracuse University, Nancy Cantor, said that Discovery was taking on an “ambitious task of public education” through the series. Ms. Cantor called it “a refreshing development for all of us in higher education.”
Mr. Hendricks, who calls himself the project leader for “Curiosity,” said he wants it to showcase the “best thinkers in the world” as they answer life’s enduring questions in an accessible way.
“We’re in the business of satisfying curiosity, and if we do that well, we think that’s an endless business,” he said.
Mr. Hendricks, who founded Discovery in 1985, remains the chairman of Discovery Communications. He stepped down as chief executive in 2004 and later developed the Experius Academy, an adult education retreat in Colorado that is scheduled to open next spring.
“Curiosity” is a joint production between Experius and Discovery; the academy is to hold complementary learning retreats with experts who appear on the series.
Discovery’s education arm will also prepare lesson plans for students. For each one-hour episode as much as four or five hours of additional content will be available on the program’s Web site.
Some “Curiosity” episodes will be simulcast on other Discovery Communications channels, potentially including the Science Channel and Discovery HD Theater.
While Discovery is not directly portraying “Curiosity” as the next “Planet Earth,” it is clearly keen on recreating that series’s sense of scope and ambition. “Planet Earth” was a co-production with the BBC and the Japanese broadcaster NHK that showed the world in stunning, close-up high-definition.
Mr. Hendricks said that such programs had value beyond ratings. “They solidify you emotionally as a brand for your viewers,” he said.